Sunday, April 6, 2014


vcm_s_kf_m160_120x160By Ruth Ross

The birth of a new theater company—especially one that names itself Fearless Productions—is always a reason to rejoice. I am pleased to report that, in their inaugural production of The Scene by Theresa Rebeck at the Union County Performing Arts Center's Loft space, the company lives up to its name!

This black comedy by Rebeck, the author of Seminar (academia) and Mauritius (stamp collecting/collectors), The Scene skewers the Manhattan show business industry and its fragile relationship to morality and loyalty. Using the classic boy-meets-bad girl story, Rebeck charts the sad plight of an out-of-work actor led into an extramarital affair with a ditzy social climber that results in alcoholism and homelessness, and the loss of his wife and his best friend, leaving him, ultimately, with nothing. Along the way, she lays bare the savage economics of the entertainment industry—where, to get a job, one is reduced to sucking up to despicable people—that can drain talented people dry of self-esteem and ruin domestic relationships, and shines a light on self-absorbed/self-obsessed people who are not above shedding morality and loyalty in pursuit of success.

Making his full-length directorial debut, Dave Duncan keeps a firm hand on the proceedings. On the spare set; the actors quickly move the furniture around themselves to change venues, a speed that matches the actors' snappy delivery of Rebeck's clever dialogue. Our attention to the action never wanes. And given the small space, the audience feels more intimately involved with the action and the characters. Indeed, watching the erotic action and the full-blown arguments makes one feel like a voyeur!

But, oh! watching Clea, the young twenty-something recently arrived in the Big Apple from Ohio (as she reminds us several times), set her traps is nothing short of stupefying. Kristina Hernandez (below with Bram Akcay) oozes a sexuality and innocence laced with a knowledge of exactly what she is doing. At first, she seems to be a bit of fluff, and we laugh at her misuse of language and vapid observations. But as Hernandez peels back the very thin outer skin of this Jezebel, we see a woman who knows exactly what she wants and the way to get it. No country bumpkin she; she's absolutely toxic!

Bram and KristinaAs unemployed actor Charlie, Bram Akcay (Left, with Kristina Hernandez) puts the man's very fragile ego on full view. At first dismissive of Clea's choice of words to describe New York ("surreal" is one of her faves), he is easily seduced by this slip of a thing who seems to sympathize with his difficulty in finding a job. When she asks, "Do you want to have sex with me," he doesn't hesitate. What man living on his wife's salary and feeling emasculated by joblessness would refuse? The scene where he tries to justify his actions to his betrayed wife are heartbreaking. His rants about her deficiencies seem so abstract, yet Akcay's torment and rage make him very sympathetic despite his despicable behavior.

Kristina and LynnLynn Langone (far right, with Kristina Hernandez as Clea) plays Stella, the wife, with aplomb. She goes from competent if unhappy television executive to spousal basket case before our eyes; her initial performance makes manifest Charlie's complaints. Her response to discovering Charlie and Clea going at it shakes the rafters of the little theater. In fact, she defines what it is to "make a scene," just one of the many iterations of the title of this play. But her humanity comes through when she confesses to Lewis, Charlie's best friend, the lengths to which she has stooped to get her husband back.

Gus and LynnGus Ibranyi's portrayal of Lewis matches the others in style and power. His more laid back performance provides a nice contrast to Akcay and Langone's tightly wound demeanor and takes the tension down a much-needed notch. Almost caught in Clea's web, Ibranyi's Lewis (left, with Langone) maintains his loyalty and morality, if not to his best friend, then spoilers here! He is disarming but not above going after what he wants.

I am not sure who designed the set, lighting and sound, but the choice of music, especially the 80's hit "I'm Only Human," highlights the play's satire of the human condition. Even more than skewering the show biz/entertainment "scene," Rebeck lasers in on human weaknesses, so that the play loses its particularity and gains a universality to which we can all relate. Fearless Productions' fearless production does just that, in spades. Artistic Director Brian Remo and friends, you are a refreshing addition to the world of local theater that we have here in New Jersey. Welcome!

The Scene will be performed at the Union County Performing Arts Center Loft, 1601 Irving Avenue, Rahway, through April 13. For information and tickets, call 732.499.8226 or visit online at